Powerbeats Pro are the Bluetooth earbuds to beat

Let’s get the bad out of the way first, shall we?

For starters, that charging case is huge. There’s no way around it. It’s something that’s become more and more apparent as the weather is warmer and I no longer have jacket pockets to carry it around in. If you shell out the money for these, you’ll be thinking about this a lot, too. How long you plan to be out versus the added pocket bulk.

There’s also the issue of cost. A few years ago, $250 might not have seemed crazy for a pair of wireless earbuds. When you’re out-pricing Apple’s primary earbuds, however, it might be time to reconsider.

Those are really the big strikes in what’s been an otherwise wholly enjoyable review process. I’ve been eager to put these through their paces since the day they were announced, and haven’t been disappointed. Given the choice between the AirPods and Powerbeats Pro, I’m leaning toward the latter at the moment.

The Powerbeats Pro are a wholly different take on the category, and that’s precisely where they succeed. Sure, Beats has been operating under the Apple banner for more than a third of its existence, but the company’s fully wireless headphones are probably the best example to date of how to run a sub-brand with minimal interference.

That’s not to say that Apple wasn’t involved. The company’s fingerprints are here, but that’s largely a good thing, honestly. The inclusion of the H1 chip is the clearest example. Using the same silicon found in the latest AirPods, the initial pairing process is as simple as opening up the case. From there, a large window will show the case and two headphones, along with corresponding battery levels.

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Nura’s sound-adapting earbuds are up for pre-order, will start shipping in September

I’m struggling to come up with a single bit of technology I was more excited about at CES than the Nuraloop. I reviewed Nura’s original product fairly positively, but I’ve never really been an over-ear headphone person. The company’s latest strips a lot of the unnecessary bits from those original Nuraphones, into a far more portable package.

All Nura had back at CES was a dummy prototype of the product, but it was enough to get me excited about the things. Four months later, the headphones are up for pre-order, with an expected delivery date of September. At this stage, the company appears to be gauging interest in the product, offering up early pre-orders for 30% off their $199 final retail price.

The strategy makes sense for a company that still seems to have limited retail reach. Nuraphones were a definite Kickstarter success story, raising $1.8 million. This is a way of gauging that sort of interest without having to return to the crowdfunding well.

If all of the company’s claims hold up, these are looking pretty great. The headphones maintain the same sort of custom sound profiling that made their predecessors great, while stripping away nice but unnecessary elements like the over-ear bass bump. The company’s also promised an extremely impressive 14 hours of playback on a charge — that’s even more than the set OnePlus announced today.

We should be getting our hands on production units prior to ship date, so we’ll happily report back on that end. At $140/199, they’re priced similarly to AirPods. Obviously they’re destined to be much more of a niche device than Apple’s offering, but could be right in the sweet spot for users looking for portability without sacrificing sound quality.

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Beats’ AirPods alternative start shipping May 10

Earlier this month, Beats unveiled its long-awaited answer to AirPods. The Powerbeats Pro feature far longer battery life, better sound and an improved fit. The Apple subsidiary promised a May release, and now we’ve got something more concrete.

The fully wireless earbuds go up for pre-order in the U.S. and Canada the morning of May 3 and will be available to everyone May 10 — just a little while longer to get your hands on what’s looking to be a pretty solid alternative.

I spent a bit of time with the headphones already and was mostly pleased with the experience. The comfort’s really the big thing here, especially given the fact AirPods’ hard plastic just doesn’t fit well in lots of ears. Couple that with the H1 one chip and you get the same basic pairing functionality you get with the Apple-branded earbuds. There’s also a lot to say for the stated nine hours of battery life — more on that in our inevitable review, of course.

Downsides include an extremely large charging case, which you’ll probably end up leaving at home when you go for a run. There’s also the pretty lofty $250 price tag, which put them $50 north of the AirPods 2. Either way, it’s a win-win for Apple. The Powerbeats Pro will be available in black at first, with white and brownish-green coming later in the summer.

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